Changing Depressive Thinking Patterns from Negative to Positive, While Being Realistic

By Diana Holbourn

Summary

This is an exercise that demonstrates that it's possible to interpret and think of exactly the same thing in totally different ways, some that can make a person far more depressed than others. It's designed to encourage people to try to think of possible alternative explanations for things that happen rather than habitually thinking the worst.

Skip past the following quotes if you'd like to get straight down to reading the self-help exercise.


Things People Have Said About Depression and Positive Thinking

Habits of pessimism lead to depression, wither achievement, and undermine physical health. The good news is that pessimism can be unlearned, and that with its removal depression, under-achievement, and poor health can be alleviated.
--Martin Seligman

I don't think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains.
--Anne Frank

Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams.
Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential.
Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.
--Pope John XXIII

I am not a has-been. I am a will be.
--Lauren Bacall

The lowest ebb is the turn in the tide.
--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Measure yourself by your best moments, not by your worst. We are too prone to judge ourselves by our moments of despondency and depression.
--Robert Johnson

Introduction

Welcome

This basic exercise is based on the idea that depression isn't caused by circumstances themselves, but by the way people respond to them. It's said that people can be hurt, shocked and traumatised by circumstances, but the extent to which we will go into a long-term depression over them will depend on factors such as how hopeful we are that things will get better, and how much control we feel we have to change our circumstances.

The way we feel about even very bad circumstances can depend to a large extent on our thinking style. If we keep thinking, "The situation's hopeless! My life's ruined", for example, we'll feel far worse about exactly the same situation than if we think, "Right! I'm going to sit down and work out ways I can combat this problem!" While the negative thoughts will cause depression, the same situation won't cause depression if we resolve to sort out the problems and are confident we can. Some bad situations genuinely are beyond a person's control, and feeling powerless and depressed is a rational response; but sometimes people can assume things are worse than they really are.

This exercise illustrates the way in which bad situations can be made far more damaging for a person simply by the way they think about them, and shows how circumstances can seem a lot less bad simply by a change in the way people think about them. Usually, even a very bad situation won't be hopeless, but you may think it is if you're often depressed, partly because you're used to thinking that way. But thinking habits don't have to stay that way.

Psychologists say that depressive people also often think the worst when something good happens, such as by dwelling on the possibility that it won't last. They tend to develop exaggerated views of how disastrous bad things are, and can often take more blame than they should when things go wrong, and not take the credit due to them when things go right.

It won't be your fault if you have such negative thoughts. It's partly learned behaviour. Like a destructive habit, or a carry-over from a time in your life when there really was a lot less you could do about bad situations and nothing seemed to be improving so feeling hopeless was perfectly reasonable.

But the tendency to slip automatically into depression can be changed. Here's how. Look at the ways you can think of the same things in totally different ways in the following scenarios, ways which could either affect your mood positively or negatively. Hopefully, they'll inspire you to want to change your thinking style from negative to positive and give you ideas on how it can be done. Some of the illustrations are fairly trivial, but they nevertheless get the point across that exactly the same situation can be thought of in very different ways according to the way people think.

This exercise is meant to complement the larger article on depression on this website, that covers several more issues that can cause depression and ways of dealing with it: Overcoming Depression and Worry.

Another related article is Helping a Husband or Wife Over Depression.

Go to the end of the exercise if you'd like to know the main sources used in creating it.


Consider how you could respond in different ways in each of these situations:

Scenario 1

You get bad grades at school.

The way depression might make you think:

Tearful

I'm no good at schoolwork. My life's ruined! I'll never amount to anything.

Possible alternative perspectives:

  1. I didn't study hard enough. I'll make sure I do better next time. (Or if that was the final exam), I'll find another route to success. I could join an apprenticeship scheme for something. Or I could go to college and re-take my exams there.
  2. The questions were particularly difficult, and actually a lot of the class didn't get very good marks, so it obviously wasn't just me who thought they were hard.
  3. The exams were very close together and I just didn't have time to revise everything. Unfortunately, a lot of the questions were on subjects I didn't have time to revise. The school ought to organise exams better.
  4. I found it difficult to concentrate while I was supposed to be revising because something worrying had happened recently and I kept being distracted by thinking about it. Hopefully next time, there won't be so many upheavals in my life so I can concentrate better.
  5. I had an incompetent teacher. Hopefully, the ones I have in future will be better.

Scenario 2

You have a job interview and get the job.

The way depression might make you think:

Anxious

All the other candidates must have been absolutely no good at all if they picked me! I probably won't do a very good job of it. And the job market is so insecure anyway that this job probably won't last very long, and then I'll be out on the scrapheap!

Possible alternative perspectives:

  1. I feel sure I was a strong candidate and probably impressed them. As far as I know, this is a stable organisation that I'm likely to be with for some time if I do well. And if I am made redundant, the experience I gain here will mean I'm more likely to get another job.
  2. I didn't do as well as I could have done at the interview, but they obviously liked me. I seemed to get on well with them, which is a hopeful sign for the future since I'll be working with them. Being trained to do the job will increase my talents, so if I do happen to be made redundant at some point, I'll be more useful to other companies and so I'm more likely to get a job in the future.
  3. Yes, maybe if there had been more candidates, there would have been a stronger one than me who would have got the job; but now I'm in, I can show them what I can do! I know I have talents in this line of work. And there's always a demand for the kind of thing this organisation provides, so I can't see that there's a high likelihood of being made redundant really.
  4. I think I can congratulate myself, because I put a lot of effort into interview preparation, finding out about the company, thinking through why I'd like to work there, and contemplating how I could best illustrate to them that I could do the job. It obviously paid off! I can be quite pleased with myself. This is quite possibly my first step to success! I might even be promoted and become an important member in the organisation one day in the future. I know I'll be dedicated and committed in all likelihood, because I do like doing this type of thing, and so I'll probably do well. And I won't worry about redundancy unless it ever happens; time enough to think about it then; no point worrying over something that might never happen!
  5. I know I did quite well at the interview. They were probably also impressed by my qualifications and previous experience. I know I can do this job because I've done it before. And if I am made redundant, I know my qualifications and experience will give me an advantage when searching for something new.

Scenario 3

You ask someone out and they don't want to know. This is the third time in a row it's happened to you.

The way depression might make you think:

Anxious

They don't like me. I'll never get a girlfriend/boyfriend. I shouldn't have to be on my own! I must find someone to go out with! If I don't, I'll be a lonely rejected person left on the shelf.

Possible alternative perspectives:

  1. Perhaps the person I've just asked is hoping to get together with someone else he/she's got his/her eye on, and that's why they said no, rather than it being anything to do with me. Maybe the others I asked said no for reasons that didn't have anything to do with me as well.
  2. Maybe the latest person I asked thinks I'm nice enough, but he/she probably really wants to go out with someone who shares more of their interests, like sport. Maybe the others said no for reasons like that as well. Maybe I'll ask someone who shares more of my interests next time.
  3. OK, so there are a couple of off-putting things about me, like my habit of interrupting, and the way I often don't bother to brush my hair. Well, I can work on changing those.
  4. Perhaps the last person I asked is still licking their wounds from their last relationship break-up and they don't fancy a new relationship just yet, especially when there's a chance of getting back together with their last girlfriend/boyfriend. Maybe one or both of the others I asked before felt like that as well.
  5. Maybe they're just not physically attracted to me, and view me more as a friend than a love interest. That doesn't mean I'm not physically attractive. Perhaps the chemistry will be there between me and someone else soon. But if it's a while before I find someone, I don't suppose I really ought to worry about it. What makes me think I need to go out with someone and think it will be so disastrous if I'm left on my own? Maybe it won't be that bad at all! There are advantages to being alone, like being able to go where you want when you want or spend hours on the computer or reading whenever you want without anyone complaining; or being able to choose which university you want to go to entirely because of its reputation, rather than being restricted in your choice because you want to be near your love interest. So I could just enjoy singleness for a while. And I have several ordinary friends to go around with, so I don't have to worry about being lonely.

Scenario 4

You phone a friend and leave a message because they're out, and they don't get back to you.

The way depression might make you think:

depressed

They don't really like me.

Possible alternative perspectives:

  1. Maybe they've been very, very busy, and haven't had time to turn their attention to their phone messages. Or maybe they've gone away for a couple of days.
  2. Perhaps something important's come up and they've just forgotten all about it.
  3. I didn't leave my phone number; maybe they've forgotten it.
  4. Perhaps they're tired and just wanted to relax when they came in, and have gone out again today.
  5. Maybe their answering machine's broken or they just haven't looked at their messages yet. I'll phone them again soon.

Scenario 5

You go to pottery classes and make something which clearly took imagination and skill.

The way depression might make you think:

Unhappy

Well, I obviously inherited the gift from my parents. They're the ones who can take the credit, not me. But I don't suppose I'll be able to make too many more things as good as that. Perhaps I was just feeling especially inspired making that. And all the mistakes I made before I finally got it right! I'm obviously not really any good.

Possible alternative perspectives:

  1. I clearly have a talent for this. I can think of many more beautiful things I'd like to make, and I'll come back here and probably make them.
  2. I was taught embroidery as a child and had good teachers, and became highly skilful and imaginative. So it's natural that I should be skilful in making beautiful things in pottery as well.
  3. I really enjoy this, and when you enjoy something, you're bound to be more committed to it and so are likely to do better.
  4. The teachers here have taught me well. I'll probably get better and better!
  5. I put a lot of thought into it. It took a lot of work and time, and I had to re-do bits where I made mistakes, but now I've finally done it, I think I can be pleased with myself, and I know people will admire it.


    Every thought is a seed. If you plant crab apples, don't count on harvesting Golden Delicious.
    --Bill Meyer

    Argue for your limitations and, sure enough, they're yours.
    --Richard Bach, (Illusions)

    Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.
    --Thomas A. Edison

Scenario 6

The boss comes to you at work and says, "Can't you ever do anything right?! This piece of work's lousy!" And he points to four or so mistakes in it.

The way depression might make you think:

Discouraged

No, I can't do anything right! I'm a lousy worker! I'm always making mistakes! I don't deserve this job!

Possible alternative perspectives:

  1. The boss is being totally unreasonable by asking if I can never do anything right, because there are many things I do in my job very successfully, and he knows it! He ought to learn to phrase his words more sensitively! As for the mistakes I made, well, there were a few, but the work was far from "lousy"! And it was a new thing I'd never tried to accomplish before, so I hadn't had much practice at it.
  2. The boss was a bit harsh, but I have been making several mistakes in my work over time. Perhaps I could do with a bit of re-training, or maybe my talents lie elsewhere. Yes, I know I'm good at some other things. I'll look out for a job where I'd be doing those instead.
  3. The boss knows I don't always make mistakes! I'm just tired because I didn't get a good night's sleep last night. I'll try extra hard to concentrate for the rest of the day, or ask to be excused for the rest of it, and do my best to get a good night's sleep tonight. If I have a problem with sleeping more often, I'll look for advice on curing insomnia on the Internet.
  4. I wasn't concentrating as much as I should have been because I was allowing my mind to wander; but it's not nearly as bad as the boss is making out; perhaps he's being bullying because he's stressed because he feels under pressure from his superiors to get us to get our work finished quickly, or he just has aggressive insensitive tendencies because he's never learned or been interested in adopting the social skills of being tactful.
  5. Actually, they weren't really mistakes at all; I just did things a bit differently from how he likes them done, which isn't surprising, baring in mind I've got into the habit of doing them like that because it's how they were done at a previous workplace where I worked for some time! If he'd been a bit clearer about how he likes them, or if I'd been here long enough to get used to things here, I'd have done them his way.

Scenario 7

You suggest to a friend that you both go out together somewhere for the afternoon next Saturday, but a day or two beforehand, you get a quick message saying he apologises but he has to cancel.

The way depression might make you think:

Suspicious

He doesn't really like me! He only said he'd come because he doesn't want to offend me! It's not fair of him to treat me like this! Perhaps he's going to go with someone else instead! Perhaps he was planning to do this all along, two-faced ratbag! What can I say or do to get revenge?!

Possible alternative perspectives:

  1. Maybe he's got the flu or some other bug. Perhaps I should phone him and ask if he's allright, or wait a few days and then do it, since if he is ill, he won't want to get out of bed to go to the phone at the moment, but he'll hopefully be better soon.
  2. Maybe someone's asked him to help them do something at short notice.
  3. Perhaps a friend or family member of his has become ill and he wants to go and see them. Well, if that's what's happened, I hope it isn't that serious. Maybe I'll phone him later and speak to him.
  4. He suffers from depression himself. Perhaps he's just gone into a very low mood and doesn't feel like communicating with anyone or going anywhere. Maybe I could go and cheer him up, and we could go out when he's feeling better instead.
  5. Perhaps he forgot he was due to go somewhere with me on Saturday and made other arrangements, or he'd made other arrangements beforehand that he forgot about when he arranged to spend the day with me, and he only recently remembered, but he's too embarrassed to tell me much about it at the moment. He probably will later.

Scenario 8

You play a long game of chess with someone who's got a reputation for being hard to beat, and win.

The way depression might make you think:

Sad and fed up

He probably just let me win because he felt sorry for me or thought I'd be bound not to be that good so he wouldn't play as well as he can!

Possible alternative perspectives:

  1. I'm pleased about winning. I'm glad my father taught me chess when I was young and that I played it quite a lot and built up my skills over the years. Now I know I must be good at it!
  2. Well, I know I have a good brain for chess strategies. I managed to concentrate and think them through all the way through the game, and it obviously paid off!
  3. I'm glad I spent all those evenings playing chess with my housebound neighbour because I cared about him and wanted to help keep him occupied so he wouldn't live such a boring life. I obviously have a compassionate streak. Well, it seems such things may sometimes have their own rewards!
  4. Even if he was having a bad day, he must have still been playing well. It certainly wasn't a walk-over! It took brain power to beat him, and I know I have a good brain for it, because I've beaten several other people in my time who I know weren't that good. But he was far more of a challenge, and yet I still won!
  5. I haven't played chess in some time, so I never thought I'd win! It's nice to know I can still remember my old skills. My memory must still be in good working order. So that's reassuring.

Scenario 9

You have a collision with someone in the street and he swears at you and tells you you're clumsy and demands you "Watch where you're going!".

The way depression might make you think:

Hopeless

I must be clumsy; I'm causing a hazard; I'm no good! But there was no need for such rudeness! The world's full of nasty people who bang into you and then don't even say sorry but blame you and swear at you! Is it worth living in this world?!

Possible alternative perspectives:

  1. Maybe he'd just been fired from his job or had some other bad experience, wasn't looking where he was going, and when he bumped into me, wanted to vent some anger to make himself feel better. Most of the people I meet behave much better towards me.
  2. OK, I was distracted by the display in a shop window. I should have been concentrating more on what was in front of me. But I didn't hurt him enough to deserve being spoken to like that. Never mind. I won't let it ruin my shopping trip!
  3. Well, what does he expect if he will suddenly dart out of a shop like that; he was the one not looking where he was going!
  4. I didn't see him coming out of that shop. I wonder if I need glasses. Perhaps I'll go and have an eye test, and if I have got something wrong, maybe they can stop it in its tracks.
  5. Perhaps I shouldn't have turned around so suddenly. Perhaps I can make him feel friendlier towards me if I apologise and help him pick up what I made him drop.

Scenario 10

You have a relative who usually invites you round at Christmas, but this year, you haven't had an invitation.

The way depression might make you think:

Unhappy

They must have gone off me and decided they don't want me around their house any more.

Possible alternative perspectives:

  1. Perhaps they've sent an invitation but the post's extra slow and it hasn't got here yet.
  2. Maybe they're not feeling well enough to have a celebration this year. After all, they're getting on a bit. I'll get in contact with them to see how they are and whether there's anything I can do to help if there's something wrong.
  3. Maybe they're still annoyed with me because of that stupid argument we had a few months ago. I know I was partly to blame for it. I'll phone them up and try to make it up with them.
  4. They did move house recently. Maybe their house is still a mess with boxes everywhere and they don't want to invite anyone around until they've got everything sorted out.
  5. Maybe they've decided to go on holiday this Christmas instead of having a celebration at home. Come to think of it, they were talking about how they'd like to go skiing at Christmas last time I saw them. Maybe they just forgot to tell me they were going amid all the preparation, or maybe I'll hear from them soon.


    We have no right to ask when sorrow comes, "Why did this happen to me?" unless we ask the same question for every moment of happiness that comes our way.
    --Author Unknown

    Oh, my friend, it's not what they take away from you that counts - it's what you do with what you have left.
    --Hubert Humphrey

    To be upset over what you don't have is to waste what you do have.
    --Ken S. Keyes, Jr., (Handbook to Higher Consciousness)

Scenario 11

Somebody compliments you on the way you look.

The way depression might make you think:

Unhappy

They're just being kind! They know I've been feeling down recently and they just want to cheer me up. I don't look very nice at all really!

Possible alternative perspectives:

  1. I do look nice.
  2. Yes, they may have said it because they wanted to encourage me, but nevertheless, I'm sure they were telling the truth.
  3. That just shows you that it is worth smartening up after all!
  4. This new outfit obviously suits me. I clearly have good taste in clothes! good.
  5. Perhaps I don't look that good, but at least I look better than I did and that's why they're commenting. Well, at least that's an improvement.

Scenario 12

You're passed over for a job promotion you really wanted.

The way depression might make you think:

Unhappy

I'll never get anywhere in life! They just don't think I'm good enough and will never recognise my talents! Everyone's getting ahead except me! I'll be stuck in the same old job forever!

Possible alternative perspectives:

  1. Thinking about it, I can see how the person who got the job was better qualified than me. He had more know-how and more experience. But when I've been around here for a bit longer, I'll have developed more myself, so maybe the next time such a position is going, I'll get it.
  2. Perhaps they don't recognise my talents. But that doesn't mean I have to stay here! I could apply for a better job somewhere else if I wanted. I'm more likely to get it since I'm already employed.
  3. Well, at least I was short-listed. That means they'll probably look favourably on me next time this kind of position comes around.
  4. OK, so, for whatever reason, he was chosen over me. Perhaps it was because the boss I've got now finds me particularly useful and wants to keep me here. It's not really a bad job. I enjoy some of it. And when I compare myself to people who haven't even got a job, or the thousands in other countries working in sweatshops for hours and hours a day in miserable conditions for extremely low wages, I can be very grateful I've got a secure, safe job where the pay's reasonable.
  5. Well, I'm fairly well qualified for the job, but the person who got the promotion is on friendlier terms with the boss than me. Perhaps the answer is to behave in a friendlier way towards the management, and then next time, it might be me!

Scenario 13

You've been living for years with a relative who's constantly criticizing you, saying you'll never amount to anything and you can never do anything right.

The way depression might make you think:

Tearful

They're right! I won't ever amount to anything. I'm a failure! I never do anything right!

Possible alternative perspectives:

  1. This person is a bully! If I analyse what they say, I can work out that a lot of it is just plain wrong; they're expecting unrealistic standards that I don't need to live up to and not many people could! They seem to expect me to be perfect! Well, nobody's perfect or ever can be, so it's unreasonable of anyone to expect someone else to be! For instance, they criticize me whenever I don't get the top marks in my class! Well, I get high marks. For most people that would be good enough; it would be good enough to get into university if I got those marks in my final school exams! And they criticize me for going out, saying I should spend the time studying. Well, I do a lot of study, and it's unreasonable of them to think I should do without a social life entirely! They wouldn't like to do that! And they say I'm not good-looking enough to attract the opposite sex. Well, whose genes did I inherit? They're partly responsible for my looks! And I don't think I look that bad at all; and an intelligent person will go for personality rather than looks anyway! And when they tell me to do something I'm not used to doing and I make a mistake, they ridicule me. But of course they can do it better than me; they've been doing it for much longer! And if their instructions had been clearer, I'd have done it better! And I bet that if they were doing something new not having been given clear instructions, they'd make mistakes! I'm not going to take what they say that seriously any more!
  2. Much of the problem is caused because they phrase what they say in negative, all-encompassing language, making it inaccurate. For instance, they say, "You can't do anything right!" Well, that clearly isn't true; I've got good marks in my exams; I comforted a friend the other day when they were upset and they said I was a great help; I have a pet rabbit which is happy and well-fed; I've been told by others that my cooking's excellent; I'm being given one of the lead positions in the amateur dramatics group I'm a member of. ... Of course I do things right - lots of things! Maybe they say I can't sometimes when what they really mean is something on the lines of, "You've just left a bit of peel on the potatoes you've just peeled" or, "I'd really appreciate it if you could wipe your feet on the mat when you come in", or, "When you read to the congregation in church last Sunday, you weren't very loud. Could you speak up more next time? That'll make sure the people at the back hear you." etc.! Rather far from, "You can't do Anything right"! Maybe they really do need to learn how to rephrase their wording so it's more accurate! If I point out their errors to them every time they phrase something wrong, perhaps they'll begin to change their ways.
  3. I do behave badly a lot. I deserve much of what they say. But their behaviour isn't very good either; it's abusive and insulting! Maybe they learned to be that way because their parents were like it with them. Perhaps we both need to change our ways. Maybe I could try having a chat to them about it.
  4. Perhaps the reason they're so grouchy is because they're in severe pain with their back condition. Not that that would ruin everybody's personalities. But maybe they were a bit like that to begin with so that's made them worse because it's making them miserable. Maybe if they heard a recording of the way they speak to me, they'd be ashamed! Perhaps I ought to suggest we get the doctor in again to see if anything else can be done for them.
  5. Maybe they're frustrated with the way their own life is going and would like to hit out at their boss for being a bully, work colleagues for performing better than them, fate for not causing them to be born with a silver spoon in their mouths etc. But they know they can't, so they're venting their anger on me! Perhaps they need to learn anger management skills, and social skills to help them communicate with people better! If I can't persuade them to improve the way they behave, then at the first practical available opportunity, it would be more healthy for me if I got out of this place!

Scenario 14

Your child gets fantastic grades in their school exams.

The way depression might make you think:

Upset

Perhaps they gave him/her the wrong grades by mistake. Anyway, I've heard about how they inflate grades to make everyone look good! Exams aren't as hard as they used to be. My child will probably struggle when he/she gets to university. Maybe he/she won't be able to stay the course. I wonder if there's even any point in them going and putting themselves through that, especially since jobs are so hard to come by these days so he/she probably won't get a job after all that study!

Possible alternative perspectives:

  1. My child's clearly a genius! All his/her life I've observed how bright he/she is! I'm really pleased.
  2. My child did study very, very hard for these exams, really disciplining him/herself to work! With that attitude, they're bound to go far in life. I can be very proud of them! All that encouragement I gave them has clearly paid off!
  3. This can probably partly be accounted for by the inflation of grades I've been hearing about, but my child got some of the best results in the class, so even so, it must mean he/she's one of the best!
  4. I'm so pleased I made the effort to ensure he/she got into a good school! I'm really pleased with the teaching standards there.
  5. I'm so glad I know something about the subjects he/she was studying. I've been able to help him/her learn. I think we can both be very pleased with ourselves!

Scenario 15

You slip over and break your ankle on the ice on a cold Winter's morning. You contemplate the incident while waiting for treatment.

The way depression might make you think:

Upset

Why don't the council salt or grit the roads?! Their service is appalling! They expect us to pay them money, but don't do anything for us in return! To think I had to lie there in pain in the cold for minutes before someone came to help! I'll probably be out of action for months, only able to lie around becoming thoroughly bored with nothing to do; my brain will shrivel! I'll probably be lonely because people won't want to keep coming to see me! I won't be able to do anything for myself; I'll have to have carers coming in to wash me - and won't that be humiliating! If they don't come in on time, I'll go without food! And I'll be in terrible pain for weeks and weeks and weeks! I'll probably lose my job because I have to be off for so long! And when I recover, I'll never have the confidence to walk around outside again!

Possible alternative perspectives:

  1. The council must have just missed that stretch of road. After all, it was in an isolated, quiet area. Given that it was isolated, Wasn't it lucky that someone came along to help me when they did! It was only a few minutes after I fell over! I wonder what the treatment is for a broken ankle nowadays. Perhaps they can just put it in plaster and let me go, and I can get crutches to help me walk, and I'll be slowed down a bit, but otherwise more-or-less OK. Maybe even if they have to do an operation on it before they put it in plaster, I'll still be able to hobble around on it after a little while. And I'm sure painkillers will help a lot with the pain. Wasn't it nice of the person who stopped to help to do that! I'm sure they were in a hurry, but they stopped to ring the ambulance on their mobile phone, and even waited with me till it came! It was cold out there, but they still cared enough to stay with me. And I was cold, but I'm glad I'm nice and warm now!
  2. Perhaps I should have been a bit more careful, since I knew things were icy this morning. I should have slowed down. Oh well! Can't change anything now; may as well try to make the best of things! Perhaps I'll have to spend a little while off work, but I don't suppose this will mean I'll be completely immobilized. I'll hopefully still be able to sit at my computer if I can manipulate my plaster-covered leg under the desk, and I could set up that website/write that book I've always been meaning to do but have never had the time for before. And I'll have time to learn up about a few of the things that interest me that I've never had time to educate myself about before. Wow! I can get someone to get some books from the library for me and find out all about the greatest Victorian inventions and the world's greatest engineering projects! And I can absorb myself in my favourite adventure novels for days and days without feeling guilty because I should be doing something practical!
  3. Well, it wouldn't have happened if I hadn't turned around suddenly because I heard a noise behind me and wanted to know what it was. I'll have to be more careful in future! Well, I'll bring that stretch of road to the attention of the council and tell them they need to salt or grit it during cold weather in future because it's dangerous!
  4. I was out unusually early, so the roads were icier than they will be now. (You laugh to yourself) What a pity they don't have under-road heaters that melt all the ice as it appears!
  5. OK, running on the ice wasn't the cleverest of things to have done, but I was in a hurry because I was late for work. Well, that backfired, didn't it! I'll be several days or weeks late now! Hehehe!


    I have often thought it would be a blessing if each human being were stricken blind and deaf for a few days during their early adult life. Darkness would make them more appreciative of sight; silence would teach them the joys of sound.
    --Helen Keller

    If the stars should appear but one night every thousand years, how man would marvel and adore.
    --Ralph Waldo Emerson

    If all misfortunes were laid in one common heap whence everyone must take an equal portion, most people would be contented to take their own and depart.
    --Socrates

Scenario 16

You're talking with a group of colleagues at work and they start saying very unpleasant things to another colleague about his looks and character, which you know to be unjust. You stand up for him. He's grateful, but you face a barrage of criticism for it from the colleagues who were being nasty.

The way depression might make you think:

Unhappy

I should have kept quiet! I will in future! They must be right - I must take things too seriously and not have a sense of humour.

Possible alternative perspectives:

  1. I think they were just trying to justify their bad behaviour. But I could see it was hurtful to the person they were being verbally abusive to. I can pride myself that I had the courage to stand up to them! I obviously have higher morals than they do when it comes to the way you speak to others. And the person was grateful I stood up for them. When the others jeered at him saying, "Can't you stand up for yourself; do you need someone to do it for you?" I'm glad I said, "He didn't ask me to stand up for him; frankly, I hope he gives you a mouthful as well as me!" I think I did encourage him to stand up for himself more. So that was good.
  2. Perhaps picking on other people makes them feel better about themselves, and that was why they were so quick to criticize both of us! I'm glad I took no part in it! I find that kind of behaviour distasteful, which it is, so in that respect, I'm more compassionate than they are. Maybe one day, someone will say nasty things to them, and then they'll know what it feels like and become more caring themselves.
  3. They can't have been right about what they said about me, because the person being picked on didn't find what they said to them funny! I do have a sense of humour, contrary to their accusations, but I'm glad it's much less vulgar than theirs! Even if it's true that most people would have laughed at what they said, as they told me, that still doesn't make it right, and I'm glad I stuck to my opinion! They joke as if they don't value the person as a thinking, feeling human being, and don't care about the effect their words will have on them. I'm glad I don't do that.
  4. Even if there was a bit of truth in what they said about the one they were picking on, they should have gone and seen him privately and talked the matter through with him seriously, courteously asking him if he'd change something about his behaviour. That's what I'd have done, and I'm glad I have higher principles than they do and the courage to stand up for them. Maybe they'll change one day and be more considerate. I hope so. There was a time when I would have laughed right along with them and maybe said a few horrible things myself, but I'm glad I know better now. It's so disrespectful.
  5. Whatever they say about me, I know they're acting like bullies, and I won't hesitate to stand up for anyone they pick on in the future either if it seems the right thing to do, despite what they might say! Maybe they'll get tired of being shown up and stop if I do it enough. Maybe I'll be able to persuade them to be more caring.

Scenario 17

You advise a friend who's distressed over the death of a loved-one to have an alcoholic drink to relax. She does, but then finds she doesn't want to stop, and spends the next week on a big drinking binge which results in her being threatened with the loss of her job, charged with drunk driving, and injured because she fell down a flight of steps in a drunken state.

The way depression might make you think:

Anxious

It's all my fault! I'm obviously terrible at giving advice! I must never do it again! Everything I say makes something go wrong! I'm an incompetent!

Possible alternative perspectives:

  1. OK, on that particular occasion, my advice turned out to be spectacularly bad; but that doesn't mean it always is. I remember times in the past when I gave good advice which turned out to be very helpful. And I'll make a mental note never to give that particular piece of advice again.
  2. I thought my friend would be able to drink sensibly because I've seen her drinking moderately in the past and just didn't realise the effects the extra stress would have on her. And I've seen other people drink moderately in stressful situations before with no problem.
  3. She usually drinks everything alcoholic with a large dose of lemonade, and I expected her to do the same, whereas she went out and bought the strongest drinks going and drank them neat. Perhaps I could have foreseen that she might do that given how upset she was, but foresight often comes with experience, which I didn't have. But I can put this down to experience, and make it a lesson for the future.
  4. I didn't realise quite how upset she really was.
  5. I was tired and distracted by other worrying things and so my head wasn't as clear as normal. In hindsight, I could have invited her to spend the evening with me and listened while she talked or suggested she talk to someone else, but the problem seemed to demand a quick solution because of how upset she was, and my mind was on so many other things that I just presented the first idea that came to me. I'll know better next time.

Scenario 18

A friend asks you to babysit her two children for the day. You willingly oblige, and you teach them a few reading and writing skills, some little songs they can sing together, how to make little cakes, and some games they can play together. Their mother has previously told you about a little boy with a broken arm on their street who bigger boys make fun of, and said that her children are beginning to learn their ways. You play a game with them where you put their arms in makeshift slings and get them to try to do things only using one hand. Their mother's really pleased with you, because in the following days, they demonstrate their new skills and games to her, and they stop laughing at the boys making fun of the one with the broken arm.

The way depression might make you think:

Tearful

Well, a better person would have been able to teach them more things! The day was quite an effort for me really. I'm not that good at looking after children. They'll probably forget everything soon anyway!

Possible alternative perspectives:

  1. Although it was a bit tiring, looking after them was rewarding. I put a lot of preparation into the day so I'm glad it paid off. I know they enjoyed themselves. And I'm really pleased they've changed their attitude to the boy with the broken arm. That game I played with them where I got them to try to do things one-handed was obviously a good idea!
  2. Thinking about it, I only think I'm not good at looking after children because of a couple of little brothers I tried to look after for a day once who were extremely naughty and just wanted to fight and scream all the time, draining my confidence in my ability to look after children and leaving me tired out! The latest children were quite good. And I think it's quite an achievement that I kept their attention all the time and kept them well-behaved all day. I'm pleased.
  3. I remember that several years ago, I used to play with children and had quite a talent for thinking up new things for them to do and teaching them things. I'm glad I haven't lost it.
  4. They're nice bright children. I remember how much I liked to play games and help with cooking cakes when I was little, so I thought they would probably like it too. I'm glad I guessed right and they enjoyed themselves.
  5. I'm glad I offered to babysit even though I thought it would be a daunting prospect. I always like to do what I can for my friends when they need a favour. And it was definitely worthwhile.

Scenario 19

Someone tells you you're fat and have an ugly face.

The way depression might make you think:

Upset

They're rude and insulting! They don't like me. But they're bound to be right. How can I have the confidence to go outside any more if my looks are that bad?! I don't suppose anyone finds me attractive. They'll probably all desert me in the end because they're so disgusted with the way I look and I'll die lonely! Maybe I need plastic surgery.

Possible alternative perspectives:

  1. The person was probably exaggerating. They don't like me anyway because they're jealous because I've got a better job than they have, so they probably just said it out of spite!
  2. OK, so I'm quite fat and my face isn't looking its best. Well, let's see what can be done with a change to a more healthy diet, a few more early nights and a good exercise routine! Maybe I'll take up swimming or brisk walking.
  3. It's true, I'm not that good-looking, but I can change some of that, and why should I let the rest bother me? Character counts for more than looks, and I know I'm caring, generous and willing to put myself out for others, within reason. Those are the things that are really important in life, and anyone who gets to know me a bit but is still put off me merely because of my looks must be a shallow kind of a person.
  4. They were trying to help me by saying what they said rather than insulting me, thinking it would help motivate me to look after my figure better, just not realising how much it would get me down. They were rather insensitive in what they said, but I know they said it with good intentions, so I won't bare a grudge and get depressed about it.
  5. There was some truth in what they said, but so what? When compared to the millions starving in Africa, the people forcibly displaced from their homes by property developers who want to turn the areas into tourist resorts, or people having to flee their homes because of war, the people caught up in war and being maimed, disfigured, killed or traumatised for life, this issue really isn't a big deal and I shouldn't let it bother me. OK, so I've no chance of being a supermodel, but there are lots of other things I could do, and if I think I'm that bad, perhaps I'll get things in perspective by doing voluntary work for a few hours a week with people worse off than me, like people with disfiguring disabilities. I'll end up being very grateful for the way I look, and for the fact that I at least have most of the parts of my body in good working order at the moment.

Scenario 20

You do a first-aid course. A relative of yours has a heart attack, but because of your skills and your prompt action in calling the emergency services, his condition isn't too bad when the ambulance comes, and he's treated successfully in hospital, making quite a good recovery.

The way depression might make you think:

Anxious

Isn't it terrible that people have heart attacks! His must be all my fault because I didn't encourage him enough to eat a lot of fruit and vegetables! To think he could have died because of me! He'll probably have another one soon and it will be so severe I won't be able to help him, and then he'll die, and I'll be terribly upset because we've lost him!

Possible alternative perspectives:

  1. I'm glad I put a lot of hard work into doing that course! Just think how useful it turned out to be! If I hadn't done it, he'd probably have been dead by now. He might last several more years now. I'm pleased that I've been reading up on health books, because now I can advise him on changes of diet, lifestyle and other things he can do to try to avoid a heart attack in the future. And maybe he'll listen now! I tried to advise him on changes of diet before, but he was always a stubborn old thing! Now, surely he'll have realised the importance of what I'm saying.
  2. Aren't first-aid courses wonderful! I'm going to try to organise for my children to go on one if I can! And considering I did the course a year ago, I'm pleased my memory's good enough for me to have retained the information till it could be useful! If I get my children on first-aid courses, it will increase the likelihood of someone being around to help if he has another heart attack. But the doctors have given him advice on lifestyle changes which should reduce the risk now.
  3. I'm pleased with myself. That was a very serious situation, and yet I kept a cool head throughout! Practising those skills beforehand helped a lot. Thanks to that, he's still here now.
  4. I'm glad I saved his life, because he's got quite a lot of living left in him. Of course, I don't suppose I'll be able to save his life every time something bad happens, and it will be upsetting when he dies. But he's getting old, so we have to accept that he will die soon. And when he does, at least we can reflect back on all the happy moments he's had, partly because we've been there for him. Since this is a wake-up call to warn us that he might not have long left, I'll do my best to increase the number of happy moments he has before he goes. Perhaps I'll start tomorrow by encouraging my children to go and tell him what they're doing at school and play scrabble with him. He loves to be with the children! And at the weekend, I'll invite my brother round, and if he comes, he can play the piano and sing for him. He loves that!
  5. Now I know how useful that first-aid course was, maybe I'll go on and do something more advanced. I'm so glad I was able to help save his life! Maybe I can help even more people with the more advanced skills I learn.


    Better to lose count while naming your blessings than to lose your blessings to counting your troubles.
    --Maltbie D. Babcock

    If you don't get everything you want, think of the things you don't get that you don't want.
    --Oscar Wilde

Scenario 21

You sometimes listen to the news on the radio and are distressed by the murders and other bad things it talks about.

The way depression might make you think:

Scared

There are so many murders going on! How can I feel safe?! It might happen to me! Maybe it's too dangerous for me to go out on my own, especially after dark!

Possible alternative perspectives:

  1. Only rare things make the headlines. If murders happened all the time, they would be so commonplace that they wouldn't be news - people would think, "Oh, another murder; Tell me something new!" The newscasters would think they weren't shocking enough to broadcast! There must be lots and lots of good things happening all around, but they don't think to broadcast those. Perhaps they're not sensational enough! They like to only broadcast the worst things!
  2. I know I shouldn't get scared at any murder mentioned, since most of them don't happen anywhere near me, or they happen outside clubs or pubs late at night, or in high-risk relationships. Since I know the news makes me unnecessarily fearful, I'll stop listening to it.
  3. News rooms seem to have an agenda. It's as if they scan the incoming stories from their news feeds for certain keywords like "murder", "shooting", "shot", "stabbed" "disaster" etc., - oh, and the names of leading politicians as well. And they broadcast stories with those keywords in them, and ignore everything else! Maybe if there weren't any murders going on in this country, instead of broadcasting news about good things that were going on here, they'd resort to broadcasting stories about murders in foreign countries instead! When I think about how big this country is and how few murders they do actually report, I'll get a better perspective on things. Besides, if there were murders going on everywhere all the time, society would fall apart, because no one would bother planning trips out or new schemes or inventions, because of the probability that they'd be dead before they could finish them! And since society's thriving, it must mean that most people's lives aren't too bad. And there are so many old people around. There wouldn't be nearly as many people living that long if murder was that common.
  4. Well, since it's making me a bit frightened, I'll take steps to protect myself when I'm outside. I'll contact the local police and ask where I can buy an attack alarm. And I'll carry a mobile phone with me so I can call the police in an emergency, should one ever happen. If I think there might be particular cause to worry, like if I happen to hear about a local murder, I'll let someone know where I'm going when I go out, so if I'm not back within a few hours of the time they're expecting me, they'll be on the alert. I'll try to arrange things so I don't need to go out after dark. Having said that, when I go out in the day, surrounded by the crowds as I usually am, I'm far more likely to be allright than I am not to be. When I think about the number of times I've been out in my life, and ask myself how many serious things have happened to me in all that time, I'll get a better perspective. I could also maybe reassure myself by asking questions like, "About what proportion of the people I know have been serious victims of crime? How many of the people I know have? How often have they become serious victims of it? What does that say about how high the possibility of them becoming a victim of serious crime whenever they go out is?"
  5. I think my anxiety problem's getting out of hand, actually, so I'll research sources of help. I could find out more about relaxation exercises, and start doing those when I can, so I feel calmer and stop worrying so much.

Scenario 22

You go on holiday with a friend. You're in slight danger of missing your transport though, as your friend can't shut her suitcase! She sits on it, bounces up and down on it and tries to push herself down as hard as she can, for minutes and minutes! She doesn't want to take anything out, and she tries to reorganise things in it, but nothing works. She still can't shut it. Then you have a look inside and decide to pack it again. You do, and you obviously do a better job than she did, because this time, it shuts with ease.

On the holiday itself, you hire a rubber dinghy together one day. Neither of you can swim, but the sea's calm, so you don't expect to capsize. However, a careless person on a jet ski comes towards you at top speed and passes you, but clips the very back of the dinghy on the way. The impact nearly knocks you both out of the boat, but you manage to stay in. However, the boat begins to sink fast, and you know you'll both end up in the water soon! Your friend begins to panic, but you manage to stay fairly calm, and come up with the idea of folding part of your clothing over in such a way as to trap air in it to keep you buoyant and then lying still so you'll float. You tell your friend, and when you do both fall into the water, you both lie on your backs and do that. The waves don't trouble you much because the sea's so calm. You shout to people nearby to rescue you, and before long, you're rescued and on dry land.

The way depression might make you think:

depressed

Some holiday! We nearly died! All because of some stupid, irresponsible jet skier who shouldn't be allowed to go in the sea! We might not have been here now because of him! And it ruined the rest of our holiday! We were too afraid to go in the sea after that! And it took a while to recover from the shock! All that money wasted! And to think we nearly didn't even get to go on the holiday anyway because my friend couldn't shut her suitcase!! Everything's gone wrong!

Possible alternative perspectives:

  1. Wow! We had a lucky escape! Well, actually, I think it was really due to me managing to stay calm and coming up with that bright idea about keeping ourselves buoyant in the water. I must have quite a good brain. I managed to work out how to pack her clothes in such a way as they'd all fit in the case as well. That was a bit of a pressured situation because we were in danger of missing our transport, but of course the incident in the dinghy was far more pressured, so I'm pleased to know I'm good at thinking clearly and coming up with things I haven't thought of before under pressure.
  2. Wow! Wasn't that exciting! The most exciting holiday I've had. I never expected to be in a shipwreck! Well, actually, I didn't think it was exciting at the time! It was scary. But looking back on it, it has its advantages; I can entertain people at parties with that one for years to come. And wasn't it funny before we went, about that suitcase - my friend bouncing up and down harder and harder, trying to shut it. At the time, it was a bit stressful because we were near our deadline for going, but we can really laugh about it now!
  3. Despite the fact we could have nearly drowned, I feel quite alert and happy at the moment. It's very gratifying to know I have quick-thinking abilities and can keep quite calm in a crisis. Perhaps it's the practice I got when I was a teacher, trying to think of new and interesting things to do in a hurry to hold the kids' attention long enough to keep them from vandalising the classroom or something! I have to admit that I was good at that. Perhaps it trained my brain for situations like this. On a more superficial level, it's also nice to know my brain appears to have an instinct for neatness, illustrated by my working out how to rearrange things so well in a hurry as to shut a suitcase that's doing its best to make us very late for our holiday. (said with a smile).
  4. It's a good thing I could think clearly in a crisis. Unfortunately, I don't know if it will be possible to find out who that jet skier is, because if he put us in danger, he might do it to others, so he ought to be disciplined. I've given the police a description as far as I can remember it, but since I was concentrating on other things, my memory of that was hazy. Maybe other people in the vicinity can remember the incident and give a better description. Anyway, I'm glad we came out of it unscathed! We were a bit shocked, but at least we weren't injured. And I'm thankful that the water was so warm. It must be terrible for people shipwrecked in the Winter. We were fortunate because the sun was so warm and the sea wasn't too cold. And I'm so glad there were people near enough to hear our shouts and see us. It didn't take long at all for them to rescue us. And weren't they kind. They were so concerned that we were allright. And I'm really glad that the people who hired out the dinghy didn't blame us for what happened! They were understanding and sympathetic as well, which was nice.
  5. Well, I hope we don't have too many more holidays like that! Still, looking back, it was quite an adventure. We were too scared to go in the sea again for the rest of the holiday so it messed up our plans a bit, but it didn't matter that much, since we enjoyed ourselves relaxing and sunbathing on the beach and walking along the seafront enjoying the scenery and the exercise and looking at pretty things in gift shops. Wasn't the weather warm and sunny! Fantastic! Maybe we'll be over our fear of the sea next time we go. In fact, I'm going to start swimming lessons, so next time we go, I'll at least be at less risk if this kind of thing ever happens again, because I'll be able to swim!

Scenario 23

You see someone about to be mugged in the street. You run towards the would-be mugger, shouting. Luckily for you, when you get close to him, he runs away. But his would-be victim runs off in the other direction without even giving you a word of acknowledgement.

The way depression might make you think:

Worried

Aren't people rude nowadays! I could have been risking my life for that person and they didn't even say thank you! I don't know why I bothered! Aren't the youth of today ungrateful! That's when they're not out mugging! What's the world coming to! We ought to be scared to go outside our front doors!

Possible alternative perspectives:

  1. I'm glad I stopped that mugging! That just shows you what you can achieve if you're courageous enough. Things could have gone badly, but I'm pleased they didn't and that I succeeded in frightening him off. I'm glad I was brave enough to do it. It was obviously the right thing to do in that particular circumstance. All those things the intended victim could have lost that they didn't because I intervened. Maybe it was the shouting that I did that frightened the mugger, because it was drawing attention to what was happening. I'm glad I did that then. The intended victim didn't thank me, but maybe they were too shocked to speak. It doesn't necessarily mean they were being ungrateful.
  2. That poor person, nearly being mugged! I'm glad I could help. It probably still upset them though. I hope they're allright. They ran away so quickly they didn't even dare stop to say anything to me. Maybe they were scared the mugger would soon come back.
  3. I have to admit I'm disappointed they didn't say thank you to me; but did I try to help them for thanks? No! I did it because I thought it was the right thing to do, and I still do. I'm glad I did it. I'm pleased my efforts were so successful. And I'd do it again.
  4. I'm glad I studied martial arts when I was a teenager. I remember I did well at it. And maybe that's what gave me the confidence to confront that mugger, So it came in handy, although I might have done it anyway. Maybe he thought I looked too scary to mess with.
  5. That was the first time I've ever actually witnessed a mugging. I wonder why so many teenagers get into that kind of lifestyle. I'll do some research into the reasons they do it, and whether there's anything we as members of the public can do to try and divert them from that lifestyle.

Scenario 24

You have a suspected health problem. You have tests for it and they say the doctor's receptionist will ring you and tell you the results within a week, but a week has gone by and you haven't heard from them.

The way depression might make you think:

Grumpy

How can they be so irresponsible! I could be dying and I wouldn't know, and they wouldn't care! This is terrible! They promised to ring me within the week! If they can't do their job properly, they shouldn't be doing it at all! Maybe they don't care about me because I'm over 50! That's ageism! Or maybe they're just incompetent! I'm going to go to the doctor and complain if I don't hear from them soon, and may even take the matter up with my member of parliament! The people at the doctor's surgery must know I'm going to be worried by this! They know it's important! I've even waited in for them to call! They know I'm a vulnerable person, so they should care about me more and not be so inconsiderate!

Possible alternative perspectives:

  1. I think that if it was important, I'd probably have heard by now because they'd have wanted me to come in urgently. I've heard that when things are urgent, they always ring sooner. So the fact that they haven't rung probably means I'm allright. But If I haven't heard by late afternoon tomorrow, I'll ring them and ask what's going on.
  2. Maybe the results haven't come back from the lab yet. I hope they do soon! Maybe tomorrow I'll phone up and ask what's happening.
  3. Maybe they would have rung today but they've been extremely busy and they'll ring tomorrow. If that's the case, I probably haven't got anything seriously wrong, or they would surely have prioritised my case.
  4. I hope the lab hasn't lost the results! Hopefully that doesn't happen very often. Anyway, I hope they would have rung me if they had. I'll probably hear from them soon. My health problem won't be desperately serious anyway even if the worst comes to the worst, so I can certainly afford to wait a few more days anyway.
  5. Maybe they rang while I was out. I'll ring them tomorrow and check.

Scenario 25

You decide to reinvigorate your life with a new burst of creativity and do an evening class on a topic you've always been interested in. You do well. Your teacher says you have a lot of promise and are one of the best students. She says she'd expect you to do well if you decided to take your interest even further and do a higher qualification in it.

The way depression might make you think:

Grumpy

No, there's no way I could ever be that good! She's probably just flattering me! I don't suppose I'm really as good as the others! I don't even know whether it's worth continuing with this, because I'll probably find it more and more difficult!

Possible alternative perspectives:

  1. It's getting more and more difficult as the course progresses, but I'm sure I can meet the challenge. After all, the teacher explains things well, and it is something I'm eager to learn about.
  2. I must have a good brain to have got this far and to have my work thought good enough to be praised like this by the teacher! She doesn't seem the type to flatter deceptively, and not everyone's being praised like this. I'm glad I got into the habit of studying hard at school so I'm used to it.
  3. That just shows you what a difference it makes when you're actually interested in the topic you're studying! I'm glad I motivated myself to go down to the college and look at evening classes. It was a real step in the right direction!
  4. The fact that I have the dedication to study this at home as well helps. I always was a conscientious person when it came to work.
  5. The teacher may be exaggerating my potential, but I know I'm doing quite well at least, and I'm happy here, finding it fun to learn about this and making some good friends, so I'm enjoying myself. That's the main thing for me.


    The sun shines and warms and lights us and we have no curiosity to know why this is so; but we ask the reason of all evil, of pain, and hunger, and mosquitoes and silly people.
    --Ralph Waldo Emerson

    A misery is not to be measured from the nature of the evil, but from the temper of the sufferer.
    --Joseph Addison, (1672 - 1719)

Scenario 26

Your love interest doesn't give you a gift on Valentine's Day.

The way depression might make you think:

Miserable

He must be going off me.

Possible alternative perspectives:

  1. Maybe he genuinely didn't have time to get one as planned.
  2. I know he's worried about money. He doesn't have to get something expensive though! But then, maybe it's partly my fault, because I have been a bit critical in the past when he hasn't spent much money on the gifts he's got me. Maybe he didn't want to risk any more criticism, but hopes to make the absence of a gift up to me in another way or at some other time.
  3. Oh well, he isn't the kind of person who demonstrates affection with gifts.
  4. Maybe he genuinely forgot what date it was, although I'm not sure how, with all the publicity! But he was always bad at remembering dates and being late for things!
  5. He's in a bit of a bad mood because we've been arguing recently, so maybe he didn't feel like getting me one; but if I go and sort the matter out with him, he'll likely be as loving as ever again.

Scenario 27

You go out for the day with a couple of friends. They come to your house first to pick you up. You've been depressed lately, so you haven't done much to your garden and it's a bit overgrown, and you have some housework that needs doing. They willingly help you with the washing up, and do some dusting and hoovering for you. Then, they help you with some weeding in the garden. When you've all finished, it's still quite early, so you still have lots of time to go out. It's a lovely warm day. You have a picnic lunch in a park, have a walk in a wood where there are some beautiful trees, and then sit by a little quiet river in the sunshine for a while, dangling your feet in it and watching children play. The day is slightly marred at lunchtime when one of your friends blames you for something you didn't do and tells your other friend it was your fault. But the incident blows over within a couple of minutes, and you enjoy the rest of the day. The next morning, you ponder things over breakfast.

The way depression might make you think:

Fed up

She blamed me for something that was her fault! That was so irritating! I should have explained to her and my other friend in more detail exactly what happened. If only I'd done that! She's done this kind of thing before! It happened because she got all flustered and said things without thinking. She's like that! She can be so annoying sometimes!

Possible alternative perspectives:

  1. After all the nice things my friends did for me before we went out, and the enjoyment I got out of the day, it's a pity to dwell on the one thing that annoyed me. It'll be better to dwell on how much nicer my garden looks now they've helped me weed it, and on how much I enjoyed sitting in the park and walking through the woods with all those trees that smelled so nice, and all the beautiful scenery. And it was lovely relaxing in the sunshine watching the children play in the shallow river.
  2. I shouldn't get so annoyed about what happened when she blamed me for that thing really. It was only a little thing, and it must have been more-or-less forgotten about in a few minutes. Besides, I'm sure I must do irritating things. Perhaps I shouldn't think too harshly of other people who irritate me, since I do annoying things myself. After all, it's nice that people don't keep bringing up the irritating things I must have done. So I ought to think of other people in the same way. Imagine if everybody was always thinking of the irritating things their friends had done. Nobody would ever get on! Some good friendships would be lost, and we'd be making ourselves grumpy all the time by thinking about irritating things, and making each other miserable by being annoyed with each other all the time. Far better to just forget minor things like that and remember the nice things.
  3. I'm brooding on this and it isn't healthy. It's just ruining my mood. It's a shame, because I enjoyed myself yesterday. I think I must have too much time on my hands at the moment so I've got too much time to think about unimportant stuff. I'll try finding things to occupy my mind to take my thoughts off this. Even getting absorbed in a good book should do it, and make me feel more cheerful.
  4. Yes, my friend has a few irritating habits. But I think the benefits of the friendship outweigh those. I'm very glad I'm her friend really. It's fun going out to places with her. And she can be a laugh sometimes. And she tells me interesting stories sometimes about what's going on at her work. And I know she'll always come and help me if I've got a problem, or visit me if I'm ill. I'll think about how nice all those things are. They far outweigh any petty irritations.
  5. I shouldn't be too irritated with her really, because she didn't blame me particularly maliciously. She was a bit flustered sorting the food out because she wasn't quite sure whose was whose, and blamed me for the mix-up; but she often says things that sound a bit silly when she gets stressed. Perhaps she was trying to make herself feel a bit better by putting the blame on me so she wouldn't feel so bad herself. But it was probably only a thing she said on the spur of the moment. She didn't mention it again after I protested. It isn't her fault she gets stressed so easily.

Scenario 28

A friend of yours begins to lose his sight, and within a year, he's totally blind. You support him all the way through it, listening to him when he's upset and he wants to talk, and trying to advise him as best you can. You help to get him a place on a rehabilitation course which teaches him new ways of coping with things. He comes out of it quite cheerful and hopeful for the future. He feels sure he can get another job despite his disability.

The way depression might make you think:

depressed

Isn't it terrible that people should go blind! I don't suppose he'll ever get a job! To think of everything he's had to give up! How will he cope now! There are so many things he's going to find difficult! He might be cheerful now, but he'll probably soon give up in despair! I tried to help him, but what can anyone do?! There wasn't much I could do at all! There's nothing I can do now that will make a difference!

Possible alternative perspectives:

  1. It seems the support I gave him made a real difference. He was so upset at first, but I always used to be able to calm him down and encourage him to keep strong. And I'm so glad I looked into ways he could be helped, and encouraged social services to do more for him. That rehabilitation course is making a real difference to him! Now, he's learning to go out with confidence using a long cane; he's on a cookery course with the local association for blind people; he's having careers advice and looking to the future; and he's buying all kinds of interesting gadgets to help him cope around his home, like a talking clock and a talking microwave. I'm so glad I was feeling stronger in those days and encouraged him not to give up when he started losing his sight and became frightened and worried. I'm sure my support helped him a lot.
  2. That rehabilitation course has obviously been good for him! And if they're giving him careers advice, there must be at least some hope he'll get a job. It seems there are all kinds of ways of coping with some of the problems caused by blindness that I didn't know about. It's a great pity he can't see any more, but he's developing new interests and he's been given new opportunities and a change of direction in life that he's quite enthusiastic about, and that wouldn't have happened if he hadn't lost his sight. I'm so glad I was there to encourage him in the beginning when he was scared of what would happen, and helped him imagine what the rehabilitation course might be able to do for him after I'd heard someone talk about it, to make him more enthusiastic to go on it.
  3. I obviously didn't play the most major role in his rehabilitation, but I certainly played a significant one. I know I helped to keep his spirits up while he was away on the course by phoning him up regularly to tell him the news from here. And if he's enthusiastic about the future now, let's hope it continues.
  4. I think it's terrible that people go blind, but I've discovered that at least in this country, it's not as bad as it could be, because there are quite a lot of services available to help blind people, by reading things for them, or helping them learn their way around the town using a white stick or a guide dog, and other things. I've heard that blind people in developing countries can be much worse off. There often aren't many support services there, and people's attitudes to them sometimes aren't so friendly. So I'm glad I give to charities that help save people's sight and provide services to help blind people do well in life there. My friend's loss of his sight has led to me doing that, through raising my awareness of the problem, so at least some good has come out of it.
  5. If he's cheerful, then I have to try and keep fairly cheerful for him so I don't discourage him. If he can cope with what happened, then so should I.

Scenario 29

You have four growing children, and your husband/partner runs off with someone else and leaves you with a mountain of debts which you'd no idea he'd accumulated before, but he writes to you admitting he squandered all your money through a gambling addiction. Now he's disappeared, and you don't know where to find him.

The way depression might make you think:

Crying

This is an absolute disaster! How can I ever trust anyone again! He's ruined our lives! I'm not going to be able to cope! There's no way I'm going to be able to discipline the children on my own! They're going to run riot! They'll probably get into drugs and crime and end up dead! And I'm going to be in emotional agony for the rest of my life because of the loss of my husband! He's destroyed me and ruined everything! I don't know if it's even worth living anymore! I want to go to bed and never get up!

Possible Alternative perspectives:

  1. He's a cheat! A betrayer! It's so upsetting to know he could do this to us! It's also upsetting to know I never guessed how irresponsible he was! I let myself have children with this man thinking I could trust him! I feel so angry with myself for not picking up on his true nature! I feel I've failed everyone nearly as much as he has. But I'm not going to dwell on it. I can't really blame myself, since he was such a good deceiver. All the time he was gambling and hiding the bills so I didn't know how much debt we were getting into, and seeing his other woman, he told me he was just going for a quiet drink with his friends or to the gym, or staying late at work. But now, I've got to think of the future and find ways to cope. I don't know how I'm going to make sure I keep good discipline now some of the children are becoming bigger than me and want to do their own thing! But I'll have a good think about it. I'll seek out advice on the matter. I must have brought them up fairly well because they're quite good kids. I know: One thing I'll do is to look around to see if there are any reputable youth clubs in the vicinity and try to persuade them to go to those. At least then I'll hopefully know where they are and that they're being supervised! I've heard that there's a low crime rate in some communities, because they have structured activities for children every night, so they don't have time to get bored and wander the streets getting into crime. I'll ask around to find out what activities are going on in the local area that don't cost much. I know there's an amateur dramatics club or two that I might be able to entice the kids to join. And I'll encourage them as much as possible to spend time on their studies. I'll make a special effort to praise them for everything they're doing that I notice that I think is good, so we'll hopefully have a good relationship and they'll be more likely to obey me. Perhaps we might even end up achieving far more and enjoying ourselves more through our efforts than we would have done if that deceiver was still here! Perhaps they could help begin to pay the bills by getting Saturday jobs. I'll have to try to persuade them. And I'll phone up all the people we owe money to and tell them the situation and try to get them to be kind-hearted and let me pay off the debt over several months or even years, a few pounds at a time. I've heard about that kind of arrangement being made, where people pay companies in small instalments. I can at least try to set something up like that. And maybe I could go to the building society and try to get the house remortgaged.
  2. I'm feeling panicky about this whole thing, but if I do relaxation exercises starting with slow deep breathing for a while, I'll hopefully get into a better frame of mind to think! ... That's a bit better! The most painful thing about all this is losing my husband. And to think he was seeing someone behind my back! Well, I can only feel sorry for her if he carries on squandering their money on his gambling addiction! I can't warn her what he's like, unfortunately, because they've disappeared. This also sadly means I might not be able to get him to help me pay off the debts. I'll go down to the citizens' advice bureau and see if they can get me some free legal advice on what to do. Perhaps they can trace him if he applies for benefits in another part of the country, because of his national insurance number. And then, maybe they can take him to court to make him help with the debts, although I don't suppose he'll have the money to do it very well.
  3. My husband could be really loving sometimes, especially in the early days, and I felt sorry for him and wanted to care for him because he said he had a bad upbringing. So I'm very upset about him leaving. That seems to be the worst part right now. Maybe I can help myself get over the upset if I write down all the things he used to do that weren't loving, all the times when he said unpleasant things to me and went out and left me on my own when I wanted company or was tired and wanted help with the children, and all the times he said he just didn't have the money to buy the kids presents, when now I know what he was doing with it! And all the other annoying things he did! He was considerate when we first married, but over the years, he got less and less considerate. When I've written the list of bad things, I'll read it to myself once or twice a day, to remind myself that he isn't worth investing all the emotional energy in that I'm putting into feeling upset right now! I'm not going to brood on how awful things were though. Once I've written some things down, and once I've read them each time, I'm going to try to keep my mind firmly focused on planning for the future.
  4. It seems my children are just as upset about this as I am. I hope this doesn't mean they stop concentrating on their studies, and their grades suffer at school. I've got so much to worry about right now! But hopefully, if I take the issues one by one and think them through carefully, I can at least manage to improve things. Where shall I start?! I'll start thinking about what I can do about the debt first, since that's the most immediate worry. Tomorrow, I'll go and speak to Social Security to see if there are any benefits I can claim that I don't know about. I've just had another idea. I'm a bit shy to do this, but maybe if I told our church pastor about my needs, I could suggest he starts setting aside an evening a month, say, for a few months, to have a bring and buy sale, and he could invite everyone along. He could say it's for needy members of the church. There may be other people in a lot of need, and he might know who they are, so maybe he could share the money between us. He wouldn't have to tell anyone who we are. There are quite a lot of things I could sell, like toys the children played with when they were younger. The money might not go far, but at least it will be something! Or maybe I could sell some things on Ebay. Maybe I can think of other schemes like this. When I've thought of some more, then I'll move onto the problem of how I can try to ensure my children aren't so upset that their grades suffer at school.
  5. What my husband's done has been a great blow for me! and I'm worried about the effect it will have on the children. But maybe I can help to prevent problems with them in the future if I keep the lines of communication firmly open between us, making sure they know I'm interested and care about what they're doing. I'll try to encourage them to talk about how hurt they are, and sympathise, but not go over and over it till they just get more miserable, and I'll discuss the future with them, asking their opinion on any future plans I have so they feel as if they've got some control at least over what's happening in the family. I'll try to keep them out of trouble by giving them talks about the dangers of under-age drinking, sex, drugs, crime, and not bothering with their studies. I'll have to work out how to do that without it sounding as if I'm lecturing them and putting them off listening! I hope they'll be touched if they know I'm concerned for them. And perhaps a closer relationship between us will make up to all of us to some extent for the loss of that husband of mine! I do have a few older male friends and family who I know they respect. Perhaps if I invite them around sometimes, they could act somehow as father figures in a small way. If I asked them privately if they could take a bit of a special interest in the children, like finding out how they're doing at school and praising them when they do well; going to see them playing sport on occasions and cheering them on etc., maybe the kids wouldn't feel the loss of their dad so much. I hope it would work, since I wouldn't have much to offer my friends when they came around, and I wouldn't want to be an imposition on them. If I don't overdo it, it's worth a try. I know one or two of them haven't got children or anyone to care for them; so maybe they'd get especially fond of the children and that would be their incentive to come round. I'll see how things work out anyway. As long as the kids don't get the impression I'm trying to find a replacement for their dad that would mean there wasn't a chance of him coming back into our lives, which would upset them, they'll hopefully be pleased if more people take an interest in them.

Scenario 30

You're good at painting, and have been involved with an organisation which does voluntary work. You've painted some beautiful pictures and hung them up in hospital wards. You know they're admired, and another group you're involved with have asked you to give a speech to them all about the voluntary work you do, bringing more of your pictures along to show them.

The way depression might make you think:

Scared

Me, do a public speech?! I don't think I could! I'll probably be boring, and stumble over all my words, and they'll get fed up of me and boo me out of the door! I might drop all my pictures in the mud on the way so I'll have nothing to show them! Maybe I'll fall over on the way and tear my clothes and get them all dirty, so I look a complete mess! Maybe I'll forget what I wanted to say and just stand there not being able to think of anything! Maybe I'll forget the time and arrive there just as I was supposed to be finishing the speech and there won't be time for it, and I'll have inconvenienced everyone because they will have been sitting there waiting with nothing happening till someone else had to do something to entertain them without having prepared it! They'll be so annoyed with me!

Possible Alternative perspectives:

  1. I'll write notes to help me remember what I want to say. I know I can do public speaking well because I've done it a couple of times before. I'll rehearse my speech a few times before I go so I'll get better at it. If I relax first, perhaps by sitting down, slowing my breathing down and imagining I'm somewhere nice and soothing for a while, I can imagine being relaxed as I'm thinking about it. But I don't suppose I have to worry really. I know this is something they'll be interested in. And they'll probably like my pictures since so many other people have said they do. I'll rehearse the speech in my mind a few times, imagining myself sounding enthusiastic rather than being anxious. Maybe I could tape myself saying it out loud when I'm good at it, so I can tell if I ought to slow down my speech or put more enthusiasm into it, or whatever. I could take a list of the main points with me and keep them in front of me to jog my memory if I do forget what I wanted to say next. I'll think of lots of stories I could tell them, because I know audiences often love to hear stories.
  2. What a fantastic opportunity this is to promote the voluntary work me and the others in my organisation do! Maybe more people will join in, and then more will be done for the people in our community who are less fortunate than us! I'm really looking forward to this!
  3. Since I love telling people in ordinary situations what I do, I don't suppose I'll really have a problem in front of the crowd. I'll enjoy showing them my pictures. People make such nice comments about them! Wow, wouldn't it be good if the owner of an art gallery just happened to be passing and dropped in to see them, and said he wanted to display some of my pictures there! I'd become famous, and celebrities might see them! I might be asked to draw pictures especially for a celebrity! Well, actually, I don't suppose that's really likely to happen (said with a smile). But I don't really suppose the worst case scenario where every single thing that possibly can go wrong will go wrong is any more likely really! It'll probably go reasonably well, maybe with a few highlights and a few lowlights, but probably nothing too extreme. Anyway, I like hospital wards to have my pictures! If I made them for celebrities, the patients would miss out!
  4. I'll take as many precautions as I can to try to ensure things don't go wrong. I'll put my pictures in a plastic bag so just supposing I do drop them in the mud, they won't get dirty. But then I've never dropped them before! Of course, sometimes things just decide to happen at the most inconvenient times, but if the worst came to the worst, I'd just have to describe them. I'll wear loose-fitting clothes so they're less likely to tear if I do fall over. But I could worry so much about things that might never happen that I never get my speech written! So I think I'll concentrate on that. Since I love talking about this kind of thing and people are always telling me they find it interesting when I do, I'm probably more likely to go on a bit too long than to get stuck for words!
  5. I'll do some slow deep breathing relaxation exercises before I go on to calm me down, or go for a nice brisk walk before I go there to burn off any nervous energy. Then, I'm sure I'll be fine. They wouldn't have asked me to do the speech if they didn't think I could do it and could interest people in what I'm saying. And I've got a lot of friends there who I expect will encourage me before I go on if I need it, which I might not, because I do enjoy my subject, and I'm sure that once I get started, I'll be good at talking about it. Most people will want me to do well anyway so they can have an interesting time. If anyone does start being unpleasant, asking awkward or irrelevant questions, I could say something like, "That's an interesting question, but I don't think it's quite appropriate to answer it now. If you come and talk to me afterwards, I'll be happy to speak to you."

Conclusion

Now you've looked at the examples, whenever you jump to a conclusion about why something's gone wrong, try to stop and ask yourself whether things really are as bad as you think and whether your reasons for thinking they are are correct, or whether there are alternative explanations that might explain things better.

Or if you find yourself feeling depressed, it can be good to try to remember what thoughts triggered off your change in mood. Then you can reflect on how accurate your thoughts are, and continually try to apply the type of thinking where you search for positive alternative perspectives on things in the future.

However, if your depression persists after you've tried psychological methods of getting rid of it, it might be as well to consult your doctor, since it can have physical causes. Depression has been known to be a side effect of certain medications, and to be sometimes caused by an underactive thyroid.


The End


Note that if you choose to try out some or all of the recovery techniques described in this article, they may take practice before they begin to work.

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Disclaimer:
The articles are written in such a way as to convey the impression that they are not written by an expert, so as to make it clear that the advice should not be followed without question.

The author has a qualification endorsed by the Institute of Psychiatry and has led a group for people recovering from anxiety disorders and done other such things; yet she is not an expert on people's problems, and has simply taken information from books and articles that do come from people more expert in the field.

There is no guarantee that the solutions the people in the articles hope will help them will work for everybody, and you should consider yourself the best judge of whether to follow their example in trying them out.


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